Conviction won’t keep businessman out of pot business

January 10, 2014

A Spokane businessman convicted in 1994 for selling cocaine in a widely reported federal case has complied with all legal requirements to apply for a license to run a marijuana business, state officials say.

Clarence “Cip” Paulsen and a partner are applying for licenses to grow and process marijuana under provisions of the pot legalization law approved by voters in 2012.

Paulsen said he fully disclosed his criminal history to the Washington state Liquor Control Board.

Paulsen pleaded guilty in November 1994 to conspiracy to distribute between 15 and 50 kilograms of cocaine. He served nine years in prison.

The new regulations for legal marijuana businesses say no licenses will be awarded to anyone convicted of a felony in the past 10 years or convicted of two misdemeanor crimes within three years.

Since his release, Paulsen has operated two Spokane businesses, including a vehicle storage operation in the former Costco store at 800 E. Third. He and former state Sen. Brian Murray are proposing they grow and process legal pot in that large building, if the state approves their applications.

Theirs is among nearly 230 applications to grow marijuana in Spokane County. The state will decide which applicants can start growing pot in late February or March.

Paulsen’s prosecution and sentence were part of Operation Doughboy, a widely publicized federal investigation into cocaine use and trafficking that led to more than 30 arrests in the Spokane area.

Paulsen said that’s all in the past and was fully disclosed in forms sent to the liquor control board.

“All that happened 20 years ago,” Paulsen said Thursday.

“I have completely rehabilitated myself. And I look forward to going into a business that will generate taxes for the city, the county and the state and that will help the community control the use of marijuana,” he said.

Each pot business applicant goes through a criminal history checklist managed by the state. In addition to having a recent felony conviction, anyone scoring eight total points is disqualified. Failure to disclose any criminal convictions alone counts as four points, according to Brian Smith, a spokesman with the liquor control board, which is regulating the pot operation statewide.

Murray noted that Paulsen’s application came back with a zero score, showing he’s avoided any other legal problems since the 1994 conviction.

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